An Absence of Obligations


It has been difficult this week getting back in to work. I am lucky enough to have a job that I really enjoy, even though it can be stressful at times. I am good at turning my work phone off and completely shutting off from work when I am on leave. I did check my emails on Sunday afternoon just to see what I would be returning to on Monday morning and I felt an absence of any enthusiasm for getting back work.

On Monday morning Mr Simple was sitting at the breakfast table looking as though he completely lacked any interest for the day ahead. When I asked him if he was struggling to get going after our staycation he said that it had been nice last week not having any obligations.

I think that the difference between our staycation and our usual holidays is that when you are away you know that it is not reality, you are staying somewhere different, often having meals out every day and it is quite clearly not the norm. Last week, on the other hand, featured a lot of our usual life – the same environment, eating out at our favourite restaurant and visiting places on our doorstep.

On some FIRE blogs I have come across the suggestion of taking mini-retirements, a few months off from work in order to practise being retired. From my perspective I had always seen this as something that wasn’t possible. I can’t just take a few months off work as my employer doesn’t allow it, so practising what having achieved FIRE would look like has not been on my radar. Looking back at our staycation I can see that it was a ‘mini’ mini-retirement. A glimpse of what life could be like if we didn’t have to go to work, or as Mr Simple put it, if we didn’t have any obligations. I think that this is why I have struggled getting back into work, as it involves doing things that I don’t want to do, which to some extent everyone’s working life contains.

On Monday I almost wished that I had never discovered the FIRE movement. Before, I was just ticking along nicely, planning to retire maybe at 60, not realising that anything else was possible. I almost felt resentment about having to work, which is a shame, because, as I say, on the whole I enjoy what I do.

Our main aim is to pay off our mortgage, which I know not everyone agrees with, but that is what we want to achieve. Any other objectives have to date been quite vague, but having had a taste of the good life has made me more determined to consider exactly what we are striving towards. As Stephen Covey says, ‘begin with the end in mind’. We need to know our destination before we make a plan as to how we are going to get there. So that’s my challenge to myself over the next few months, to get a clear picture of what our ideal life would be like and then draw up a roadmap of how we are going to get there.

So have you tried a staycation or a mini-retirement? If so, how did it feel when you didn’t have those usual obligations? I would love to hear. If you haven’t tried it, how about having a staycation over the next few months to get a taster of what life could look like at the end of your FIRE journey.

Staycation – a review


This week has shown us that it is possible to have a holiday ‘at home’, but you have to be disciplined. There is a temptation to catch up on outstanding chores and so you have to make an effort to act as though you aren’t at home.

Walking

If enjoying the outdoors is your thing then it is very easy to have a cheap and even free staycation. We enjoy walking, in fact, Mr Simple and I met through a young walkers’ group. I wonder if you realise how lucky we are in Britain to have such great access to our countryside. We are Francophiles and love going across the channel on holiday each year, but quite a few years ago we gave up trying to hike there and now take our bikes with us, as they are a much better way of exploring the countryside. Although there are some waymarked paths, any circular route often involves a lot of road walking and not always on quiet lanes. Until last year I believed that this was just true of France, but in May 2018 we spent ten days in Ireland with a view to enjoying the amazing Irish landscape, in particular the west coast. Sadly we discovered that there is even less access to the countryside in Ireland than there is in France. We spent most of our time walking along roads, with only short sections through fields. It was so frustrating – amazing scenery, but we could only enjoy the view of the mountain from the road, rather than from the top of another mountain. I have therefore learnt not to take our footpaths for granted.

We do not live in a popular walking area and yet there are footpaths everywhere and we have enjoyed some of them this week. I would definitely encourage you to buy yourself an ordnance survey map of where you live and go out and discover what is on your doorstep. Maybe wait until the weather is a bit better, but then pack a picnic and go off exploring. You may be surprised at what you find. You don’t even need a car, but can walk from the house or catch a train or bus and walk back home.

Cycling

As I said above, we often cycle in France, but we have also used our bikes a couple of times since we moved here. For me it is more of a sunny day activity, but again if you already have a bike it is a free activity that the whole family can enjoy.

Wildlife

If you’ve been reading my posts this week you will have seen that we are birdwatchers. Now we are not fanatics – those people who travel miles to see the latest unusual feathered sighting, but we do enjoy sitting in a bird hide with our sandwiches and a flask of coffee and waiting to see what turns up. Although we went to Slimbridge this week, which charges an entrance fee, there are many RSPB sites which do not charge and most probably one near you.

Museums

We spent one morning in a local museum, many of which are free nowadays. I could have done some more research on this and found other attractions to visit, but whenever we have a holiday our main activity tends to be walking. It would also probably be easier to find places to visit after Easter as many sites tend to be closed over the winter season.

Eating Out

Since I have discovered FIRE our change of lifestyle has made going out for meal a less frequent occurrence and so it has been a real treat to be able to do so this week. As we weren’t paying for accommodation I felt less guilty about spending money on a nice meal, as it was so much less than renting a cottage would have cost us, and then we would also have paid for some meals out on top of that. I have also realised that most of the time I do prefer home cooked food. My preference is to eat fewer carbs than most people and much of what is offered on lunch menus is carb heavy – sandwiches, wraps, baked potatoes and chips. During our next staycation, and I am sure that there will be a next one, I think that I might just treat us to some nice things from Waitrose – where we used to shop before we started our FI journey. We can then add those to our picnics or evening meals.

I hope that you have enjoyed my little updates and that it has given you some ideas of how to ‘holiday at home’.

Staycation Day Six – carpets and curry

The weather has been against us for much of the week and it was no different today, in fact it has been pretty miserable all day. With this in mind we had already decided that we would go out for lunch to our favourite restaurant, which is an Indian. Rather than your typical Indian, where most people would go at the end of a night out, this is more like a nice restaurant which happens to serve food from southern India.

I didn’t have any particular plans for this morning, but Mr Simple suggested going to look at carpets for the spare bedroom that he has been decorating. Never one to turn down moving forward on the house renovation I quickly agreed and so we went, in the opposite direction to the restaurant to look at carpet and after popping back home for a quick coffee, battled the elements yet again in order to get to the restaurant.

Lunch was lovely as always and we took our time. We are great fans of a leisurely lunch, like the French do, rather than a heavy meal in the evening. The best part was that they were doing a special offer – 25% off the menu at lunch time. We therefore saved over £16!

We have been very lazy this afternoon, catching up on a Skandi drama with the woodburner going.

And that’s it, staycation over. We could extend it into the weekend, but it’s going to be a wet one, particularly tomorrow, so we will probably just resort to our usual routine of chores and DIY.

Staycation Day Five – more birdlife

Today we went to Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. Just as we arrived the heavens opened and so we thought that we would be dodging the showers, but that was the last of the rain and we actually had some sunny spells. As we are members entrance was free. Unfortunately we don’t go that often so I’m not sure if membership does actually save us money.

We spent money on lunch in the café. After yesterday’s experience I just had a jacket potato. It came to just under £20 between us, which included a cake for Mr Simple. If we really wanted to be frugal we could of course have taken our own sandwiches, which we usually would have done if we weren’t on a staycation with an allowance for the week.

The great thing about today was the wildlife we saw, which included cranes, water rail and two kingfishers. We sat for over half an hour waiting for the kingfishers to appear. The reserve has created a bank which is perfect for kingfishers to nest in. They have been regular visitors recently, but we thought that we were going to be out of luck and Mr Simple was getting restless. At 2.15pm I persuaded to wait fifteen more minutes and then we were going to call it a day, but at 2.25pm a pair turned up and took it in turns to dig out their burrow. We had fantastic views, even with the naked eye. I am sure for some of you this all sounds very boring, but I believe that some of the best free activities involve enjoying the world around us and they are they can form the basis of a fabulous staycation.

Back home it was pizza and salad and then the rest of the apple and blackberry crumble and a bit of TV.

Staycation Day Four – twelve miles, local history and a plucky pony

We walked over twelve miles yesterday and that is my excuse for not having written this last night. Initially the plan was to do a walk in the national park, but as the weather was overcast we decided to stick to something local.

We walked from the village where we live to a small market town about five kilometres north. We then treated ourselves to lunch in a café, although it was somewhat disappointing, particularly as I could only manage about half of it. I think now that we don’t eat out very much I have forgotten how large portion sizes can be. I ordered a halloumi wrap with chips and after eating one half of the wrap and a few chips I was feeling rather full. I nibbled a bit of the second half of the wrap and a few more chips, but in the end had to admit defeat – such a waste. Mr Simple also struggled to finish his burger and chips. We managed to spend nearly £30 and must have left at least £10 on the plate. I realised how easily one is parted with one’s hard-earned cash when you eat out. The mistake was maybe choosing a café that we haven’t eaten at before and therefore we didn’t know the amount of food that we would get. If we went there again I think we could have one wrap/burger and chips between the two of us.

Excited to see us and rewarded with an apple

I think at this point Mr Simple would have chosen just to walk back home, but we have never explored the area north of the market town and I was eager to do so. I think that he was glad that he agreed as we discovered a manor house, a small castle (unfortunately both privately owned so we couldn’t go in) and also encountered this plucky pony. He tore across the field, past all his friends, in the hope that we may have some food. Fortunately Mr Simple had a couple of apples in his bag and so his enthusiasm was rewarded.

So that was it really. A very long walk, some local history and then we flopped on the sofa and watched a film, eating homemade curry and then apple and blackberry crumble – berries picked from the local hedgerows last autumn and kept in the freezer.